Coatney's Call: Oral Roberts Preview
Nebraska (8-3) vs. Oral Roberts (3-5)
Thursday, Dec. 20, 7:05 p.m. (central)
Bob Devaney Sports Center (Lincoln, Neb.)
Live Internet Video: BTN All-Access (premium subscribers of BTN.com)
Radio: Husker Sports Network
(Matt Coatney-PBP; Jeff Griesch-Analyst)
(B107.3 FM-Lincoln; The Wolf 93.3 FM-Omaha; 94.1 FM-KNEB, Scottsbluff; 1400 AM-KCOW, Alliance; 1230 AM-KHAS, Hastings)
Internet: Free live audio on Huskers.com
Maybe you're a 'stats' person and maybe you're not, but I think anyone would find this statistic particularly impressive: the Nebraska women's basketball team has an all-time record of 13-1 against Florida schools and is on a 13-game winning streak in those games.
In the Connie Yori-era, Nebraska has defeated some really good teams from the Sunshine State, and this season the Huskers have knocked two of those schools out of the ranks of the unbeaten. After a dramatic home win over previously unbeaten Florida State, Nebraska went to Tampa last Sunday and gave South Florida its first loss in a convincing 62-52 victory. With the game tied at 36 with 15:34 remaining, NU went on a 12-0 run over the next six minutes and eventually built the lead to as many as 17 points.
National Player-of-the-Year candidate Jordan Hooper paced the Huskers with 24 points and 14 rebounds, for the 22nd double-double of her career.
Next up for Nebraska is the start of a four-game homestand as the Huskers host Oral Roberts Thursday night at the Devaney Center in Lincoln. The Golden Eagles are 3-5 this season and are on a five-game losing streak against Division I opponents, including a 61-59 loss at Louisiana Tech last Friday.
Any discussion of ORU begins with senior guard Kevi Luper. A two-time Associated Press Honorable-Mention All-American, Luper is Oral Roberts' all-time leading scorer. She has scored more points over the last three seasons than every player in Division I except Baylor's Brittney Griner. Luper is on pace to become only the eighth player in Division I women's basketball history to accumulate 3,000 career points. She currently is 56th on the all-time Division I career scoring list, but don't think this is an offense-only player. Luper is also tied for 22nd on the all-time Division I career steals list (402). This season, the three-time conference player of the year is ranked eighth nationally in scoring (22.0 ppg) and is 14th in free throw percentage (93%).
ORU has a senior point guard who excels at getting Luper the ball in positions to score. Jaci Bigham only needs three assists to rank second on ORU's career list. She also ranks high on many other Golden Eagle career statistics: first in career free throw percentage, fourth in steals, fifth in three-point field goals and sixth in three-point field goal percentage. In fact, Bigham has posted ORU's top three single-season free throw percentages. She hit 99 three-pointers as a freshman in 2009-10, the top single-season mark in Summit League history. Bigham teamed with Luper to form the highest-scoring duo in Division I women's basketball in 2009-10 (41.5 points). Bigham currently averages 9.6 points per game and has started all eight games this season for ORU.
The Golden Eagles have an impressive freshman on the wing. Taylor Cooper is used to success, leading two different high schools to state tiles in her prep career in Oklahoma. She burst onto the collegiate scene with a career-high 19 points in her debut against Tulsa. She is third on the team in scoring (8.6 ppg) and leads the team in three-pointers (14).
Senior forward Savanna Buck is the fourth ORU player who has started every game this season. As a sophomore, Buck was named Summit League Sixth Woman of the Year and last year she started 10 games. She has put together three double-digit rebounding efforts this season, including a career-high 14 boards in an overtime loss at Missouri State. Buck leads ORU in rebounding (8.1 rpg) and adds 4.4 points per game.
The fifth starter for the Golden Eagles in the middle this year has either been junior Sarah Shelton or sophomore Bernadette Balla. Balla started the first four games and averages 8.5 points through eight games. Shelton redshirted during the 2011-12 season after transferring from SMU. She did not appear in the Nov. 19 loss to Arkansas, but has played in the other seven games, starting the last four. She averages 6.7 points and 3.1 rebounds.
Long-time ORU assistant Misti Cussen takes over this season as head coach after Jerry Finkbeiner left for Utah State after 16 years on the Golden Eagles' bench. Cussen, who was an assistant for all 16 years in the Finkbeiner-era, takes over a team that finished 20-11 in 2011-12, winning 20 or more games for the third straight year. They also participated in the WNIT for the third straight season. She will help guide the team into a conference transition with ORU leaving the Summit League and playing in the Southland Conference beginning this season.
Nebraska is 4-0 all-time against ORU, with all meetings in the series in Lincoln. The Huskers last defeated the Golden Eagles 70-51 on Dec. 2, 2008.
I cordially invite you to join Jeff Griesch and me for Nebraska women's basketball on the Husker Sports Network. Our radio broadcast Thursday night begins with the pre-game show at 6:45 p.m. (central) with the tip-off scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on the Husker Sports Network, including Lincoln affiliate KBBK 107.3 FM (B107.3), KTWI 93.3 FM (The Wolf) in Omaha, KHAS 1230 in Hastings, KCOW 1400 in Alliance, KNEB 94.1 in Scottsbluff and available to our entire 25 network stations. All Husker women's basketball broadcasts are also available for free worldwide on the internet at www.huskers.com. I hope you can join us.
There are a number of ways to get enhanced information about our broadcast and Husker women's basketball via social media. You can learn more about the team on the Nebraska Women's Basketball Facebook page or follow the team on their official Twitter page @huskerswbb. I also invite you to friend me on Facebook (Matt Coatney) or follow me on Twitter @coatman1.
Go Big Red!